Carbon credit – Solution for reforesting Central Highlands

Given the existing forested areas, developing carbon credits means unlocking the "gold mine" of natural resources that forest owners have long hoped to capitalize on.

The pine forests are like green "lungs" enveloping Da Lat City.

The Central Highlands has more than 2.57 million hectares of forests, accounting for 17.5 percent of the nation's forested area, with a forest coverage rate across the entire region reaching 45.94 percent. Despite efforts by local authorities in recent years to implement various forest restoration measures, the outcomes have fallen short of expectations.

Forestry experts emphasize the need to address the economic challenges associated with forest restoration in the Central Highlands. Specifically, unlocking the potential of carbon credits offers significant economic benefits and can help alleviate obstacles faced by the forestry industry.

Following the Government's decision to officially close the forests, numerous forestry companies and forest owners have faced challenges as they grapple with unresolved economic issues surrounding forestry. Given the existing forested areas, developing carbon credits means unlocking the "gold mine" of natural resources that forest owners have long hoped to capitalize on.

Carbon reservoir

Lam Dong is among the provinces boasting a forest coverage rate of 54.37 percent (as of 2023), encompassing a total area of 537,696 hectares. Within this area, natural forests cover 454,674 hectares, while reforested lands that have matured cover 77,157 hectares, leaving over 6,137 hectares of reforested lands yet to reach maturity. Traveling along the national and provincial highways connecting Lam Dong with neighboring provinces such as Dong Nai, Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan, Khanh Hoa, Dak Lak, and Dak Nong, extensive tracts of pristine forests, coniferous forests, and bamboo forests with dense coverage can easily be spotted.

Since 2004, when the Bidoup-Nui Ba Nature Reserve was designated as the Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park, the protection of forest resources and the preservation of biodiversity have been among its key priorities. According to Mr. Le Van Huong, Director of Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park, with its nearly 70,000-hectare area situated at the heart of the expansive Langbiang Plateau's natural forests, the park is recognized as one of the foremost areas for conserving national ecological standards. Moreover, owing to its predominantly pristine forest ecosystem, Bidoup-Nui Ba National Park holds significant potential to actively engage in the carbon market.

Along the National Highway 27 towards Ta Dung National Park in Dak Nong Province are dense, intertwined primeval forests adorned with a variety of valuable timber species. Mr. Khuong Thanh Long, Director of Ta Dung National Park, said the park spans approximately 21,000 hectares of natural land, with over 85 percent of its core area covered (comprising more than 48 percent virgin forests and over 36 percent secondary forests of various types). With its vast natural forest coverage, Ta Dung National Park is regarded as a significant carbon storage site.

Professor Bao Huy, a consultant specializing in forest resource and environmental management, explains that each forest carbon credit denotes the reduction or elimination of one ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases. The carbon accumulation capacity varies depending on the characteristics and conditions of each forest type.

Currently, the forests of the Central Highlands are recognized for their rapid recovery and growth potential, leading to significant carbon stock accumulation. Establishing carbon credits and engaging in carbon trading is expected to yield substantial benefits for forest owners.

Similarly, moving northward in the Central Highlands, numerous lush primeval forests can also be seen, especially in Kon Tum Province's Chu Mom Ray National Park, which covers around 58,000 hectares, with 56,000 hectares designated as special-use forests.

Mr. Dao Xuan Thuy, Director of Chu Mom Ray National Park, informed that in the park's sustainable forest management plan for the 2021-2030 period, the managed area is estimated to store approximately 3 million forest carbon credits. If these credits are sold, they will provide a significant and sustainable source of revenue to reinvest in forest management and protection activities.

Great expectations

Gazing upon the vast green forests, the Director of Chu Mom Ray National Park shared that carbon credits are still relatively new, and detailed implementation guidelines are yet to be fully developed. Some businesses have raised inquiries with the province regarding the prospect of investing capital in collaboration with forest management authorities to foster sustainable reforestation on vacant lands and to establish carbon credits for both planted and natural forests in Kon Tum Province.

The unit hopes that the project can be realized to bolster sustainable revenue streams. In the coming times, the park plans to roll out a project for surveying and assessing the stock of carbon credits, which could serve as a foundation for future transactions and partnerships, he said.

Yok Don National Park rangers and local residents patrol the forest.

Echoing this sentiment, Mr. Truong Quoc Dung, Head of the Krong Pa Forest Protection Unit in Gia Lai Province, revealed that the forested areas in the region that can generate carbon credits are 70,000 hectares. If these credits are sold successfully, they would be a substantial source of revenue to support forest management and conservation efforts. Consequently, forest owners are eagerly anticipating the implementation of the carbon credit project, which would provide them with additional resources for forest protection.

According to Mr. Dinh Van Dung, Secretary of the Chu Prong District Party Committee in Gia Lai Province, the forested area within the district spans approximately 60,000 hectares, primarily concentrated along the Cambodian border. The majority of these forests are currently managed under individual household arrangements. If carbon credits can be successfully sold, these forests will receive better protection, fostering a greener environment, preserving water sources, enhancing air quality, and stimulating agricultural and tourism development.

Local residents will enjoy improved livelihoods and contribute to maintaining peace along the border. Therefore, there is a strong desire for the provincial government, relevant ministries, and departments to promptly review and survey forested areas in order to develop a roadmap for selling carbon credits, aiming to benefit the local population and support forest management and conservation efforts.

Forest carbon credits are determined by the amount of carbon dioxide generated from activities aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, such as anti-deforestation and forest degradation prevention, sustainable forest resource management, conservation, and increasing forest carbon stock. Forest owners can convert the area of forests they manage and protect into carbon dioxide absorption capacity, issue carbon credits, and sell them.

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